After a nine-month interregnum, the Arlington County Police Department has a new chief. Actually, he is the same chief who has been serving in the post in an acting capacity since last year.
In a move that seemed to alienate civic activists pressing for someone of national caliber to lead the department but may have reassured some in the rank-and-file who had felt under siege over the past year, Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz on June 4 announced that Charles “Andy” Penn, who began his career in the department in 1992 as a patrol officer, would serve as chief, effective immediately.
Penn “embraces the values and important work that is needed around issues of equity, justice and safety and will work to advance racial diversity and inclusion in all of our public-safety efforts,” Schwartz said in a statement that seemed designed to try and placate left-wing activists but whose timing – afternoon on an early-summer Friday when attentions were elsewhere – raised eyebrows that county officials were attempting to bury the announcement and dilute expected brushback from some activists before the start of a new work week.
(Given the current political environment, which has sent police morale plummeting and made it difficult to recruit new officers, “I’m not sure why he’d even apply for the job,” one insider mused aloud the day after Penn’s appointment was announced.)
Both County Board Chairman Matt de Ferranti and Sheriff Beth Arthur put out statements of support for the pick. The selection came after Schwartz and some civic groups, such as the Arlington NAACP, wrangled over how much public input would be part of the selection process.
“Are we supposed to feel inspired?” county NAACP head Julius “J.D.” Spain Sr. sniffed on Facebook after the announcement, describing himself as “disappointed” and “perplexed” that Schwartz went with an insider.
Penn last year was tapped to serve in an interim capacity in the wake of the retirement of Police Chief Jay Farr late last summer.